I never had any experience with gardening until Dustin and I planted our first garden together two years ago. I was woefully uneducated in the art of growing anything, and Dustin chuckled to himself when I came home with 8 tomato plants, 8 cucumber plants, and 8 zucchini plants, which I planted in a row, all about 4 inches apart from each other. How was I supposed to know that plants get big…I mean really big? So, I learned my lesson that first year, when our little raised garden looked like a miniature jungle. And yet despite my folly, we had a big and bountiful harvest, and our gardening endeavors and aspirations have grown each year since then. I will never go another year in my life without planting a garden, for there is nothing better in the summer than walking into your backyard, and returning to the house with an armload of what will become your dinner.
I knew we were going to be bombarded with more zucchini than we could handle, so I started planning early which recipes I most wanted to try once the harvest was upon us. I made a handful of dishes, both sweet and savory during the past month, all starring zucchini. Our favorite savory dish was the Pappardelle with Zucchini and Mint Parsley Pesto, from Food and Wine. With long strips of zucchini, chewy pappardelle, and the bright taste of the pesto, full of the clean and refreshing flavors of mint and parsley, this dish was simple and satisfying, and wonderful alongside a nice cold glass of white wine.
And our favorite sweet dish? Zucchini and Ginger Cupcakes from Gourmet last month. The recipe was just different enough, that I couldn’t resist trying it. Most zucchini and loaf cakes, for that matter, contain somewhat shocking amounts of sugar and oil, so when I read that this recipe used olive oil, and honey for the sweetener, I was intrigued. I knew the honey would contribute an incredible amount of moisture, which it did, and the olive oil was indiscernable as a flavor, but I loved using it instead of corn or canola oil. The cakes are delicate, and just lightly sweet, which was a welcome contrast to the absolutely delicious cream cheese frosting. The frosting was made of mostly cream cheese, with a few tablespoons of butter, and a relatively small amount of powdered sugar. I loved the addition of cinnamon and ground ginger, which gave the frosting a speckled and golden appearance, and added an interesting and somewhat sophisticated note to the cupcake.